Creation Stories: On the Cosmogony Account from the “Book of Dzyan”

By David Reigle on June 18, 2012 at 5:00 am

The “Book of Dzyan,” from which a number of stanzas on cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis are given in The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, purports to give the original genesis account possessed by humanity (see: “The Secret Doctrine-Original Genesis and the Wisdom Tradition”). The other genesis accounts found in the world are regarded as more or less modified copies of this original, going back to what was described as the “Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World.” We learn that the genesis account found in the latter and explained in “Book of Dzyan” is the original account of cosmogony, and that this is so because it is based on direct knowledge. It is not a story made up to explain what is commonly considered to be unknowable. It may be called a creation story, but not in the usual sense.

The category of “creation stories” is widely used for cosmogony accounts from traditional sources. It is a category in which the cosmogony account from the “Book of Dzyan” may usefully be placed. This cosmogony account, however, is not a story resulting from the speculations of finite or even primitive human minds. It is supposed to be a record of observation. How, one may wonder, can creation be observed when there is at that time no one to observe it? As we learn from a hitherto secret commentary, it was observed by spiritually advanced seers when entranced in states of samādhi, through a spiritual sight that can see into the past (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 289):

“Extracts from a private commentary, hitherto secret:

(xvii) “The Initial Existence in the first twilight of the Mahā-Manvantara [after the Mahā-Pralaya that follows every age of Brahmā] is a conscious spiritual quality. In the manifested worlds [solar systems] it is, in its objective subjectivity, like the film from a Divine Breath to the gaze of the entranced seer. It spreads as it issues from Laya throughout infinity as a colorless spiritual fluid. It is on the seventh plane, and in its seventh state in our planetary world.

The cosmogony account from the “Book of Dzyan” is not a creation story in the usual sense also because it does not teach “creation” as normally understood in the West. Like other cosmogony accounts found in the sacred texts of India, it teaches manifestation or emanation rather than creation. The world arises from something; it cannot be created out of nothing. So when we here speak of “creation,” it must be understood in that sense. That sense was lost in the West when the original account of cosmogony was incorporated into systems that postulate a God who can create something out of nothing.

According to The Secret Doctrine, the original account of cosmogony was recorded in the language of symbols. Because a symbol can express things much more concisely than words can, this original account made only a very small book. This brief account of cosmogony written in symbol language is said to be the original source of the other genesis accounts found in the world (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. xliii):

“The ‘very old Book’ is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah di-Tseniuthah but even the Sepher Yetzirah, the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-King, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Purāṇas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume.”

The stanzas from the “Book of Dzyan” given in The Secret Doctrine do not come directly from that one small parent volume, the “Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World,” but rather from the first of fourteen volumes of secret commentaries written on it (Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 422). Thus, these stanzas must to some extent adopt a particular set of terminology, which in turn has become associated with a particular system of thought. It may be that there are other secret or now lost commentaries, which adopt a different set of terminology associated with a different system of thought, but which are also valid ways of interpreting the original account. Perhaps the lost Ṣaṣṭi-tantra by Kapila, founder of the ancient Sāṃkhya system, is an example of such a text. We will try to be aware of such possibilities as we proceed in this series of investigations of creation stories.

Category: Creation Stories | 1 comment

  • Nicholas says:

    A recent translation, with traditional comments, by Daniel Matt of Siphrah di-Tseniuthah:

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